Monday, October 25, 2004

Endorsement: Matheson for Governor

OK, it's time for Organic Baby Farm (A.K.A. me) to endorse a gubernatorial candidate in the Utah race. After a careful overview of the major issues and the candidates' websites, I am endorsing Scott Matheson (yes, the Democrat) for governor.

The two candidates, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Scott Matheson Jr., are actually pretty much alike. Both come from prominent Utah families. Both take pretty much the same sorts of positions on some of the major issues (probably because you can't get elected in Utah if you don't, as current governor Olene Walker found out). It's almost six of one, half dozen of the other.

On education, one of (I think) Utah's most important issues, Matheson is for charter schoools, against vouchers and tuition tax credits. I'm for charters and tuition tax credits, but I'm against vouchers (that's a whole other post). Matheson also wants to "eliminate duplicative and unnecessary state mandates," something that I think bogs down our districts. Matheson does not like NCLB, but I really don't either. I'm not thrilled about his attitude toward its objectives (which I do think are admirable), although I think he's likely to make policy decisions that work in the direction of improving our schools, which is the main objective of NCLB.

On water, Matheson sounds like he would be aggressive in claiming our water rights on the Colorado, the same river that feeds Los Angeles and other large cities that have a history of expanding without making the same environmental considerations that places like Utah do with regard to water supplies. On the environment, Matheson is against nuclear waste storage in Utah (in this I disagree with him), but the very first item on his environmental agenda is clean air, which is one of the more pressing environmental issues in Cache Valley. Every winter we get weather "inversions" that trap air in the valley, making our air pollution levels peak temporarily. They're starting to talk about enforcing vehicle emissions standards. We are trying to take care of this ourselves before the EPA has to come in and make our lives miserable.

Huntsman favors tuition tax credits, and his position on education appears to be closer to mine. Huntsman's positions on the environment and transportation appear to be identical to Matheson's. So you might ask, why endorse Matheson over Huntsman, if I agree more with Huntsman's positions? Well, it all gets back to my extreme dislike of voting for someone who campaigns with platitudes instead of concrete plans. Huntsman's "plan" is full of rhetoric and nice-sounding phrases, and my experience has been that people with that sort of "plan" end up making laws that sound nice but have no teeth to accomplish their nice-sounding and worthy objectives. Matheson, by contrast, has on his website issue-by-issue "executive summaries" of his plan, plus a more detailed plan available for those who want more detail. These are all packed full of specifics. I'd rather elect a candidate with a plan I sort of agree with, than elect a candidate who expects me to buy a pig in a poke just because he says this pig is perfect for me. I understand that not everyone will be interested in reading a point-by-point plan, but Matheson has dealt with that adequately by giving summaries of his positions and making a detailed version available with a single click.

And finally, we turn to the "intangibles." Huntsman has an adopted daughter. I know this because he regularly shows pictures of her in his commercials while loudly proclaiming that he loves his daughter just the same as his other kids and would never use her to his political advantage. It seems to me that is using her to his political advantage; if he really felt exactly the same way about her as about his other kids, it would never have occurred to him to point out how different she is from them. I also read a comment that he made during the Republican primaries, which accused his major opponent, Nolan Karras, of using his status as scion of a prominent Utah family as a crutch for his campaign. When I read that, I just laughed out loud. If Huntsman really were concerned about not playing the Huntsman family card, he would drop the "junior" from his name in the campaign. I didn't even know Scott Matheson was a "junior" until I scrolled down to the bottom of one of his executive summary pages and saw his signature.

So I am endorsing Scott Matheson for governor. I don't agree with all his positions, but I figure the only way I'll ever find a candidate I agree with 100% is to run myself. But his best feature is that he is willing to put his neck on the line and tell me where he stands, and I respect that.